The Role of Imagery in Performance

Jennifer Cumming and Sarah E. Williams

in The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Performance Psychology

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199731763
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Role of Imagery in Performance

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  • Health Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology



Imagery is both a fundamental cognitive process for producing motor actions and a performance-enhancing technique widely used by athletes and dancers. In this chapter, we review findings from basic and applied research to comprehensively define imagery and describe its key characteristics. Using a cognitive neuroscience explanation, we discuss how imagery is involved with motor skill performance and the practical implications for this explanation in planning more effective interventions through application of the PETTLEP model (Holmes & Collins, 2001 ). We also focus on the development of imagery ability, an important individual difference variable impacting the value of imagery, and discuss how certain aspects of this characteristic can be improved. We then describe other imagery outcomes and offer a revised model based on our review to guide further research and application. We conclude with future directions for imagery research and its practical use for performers, including contemporary issues to be addressed by researchers in the field.

Keywords: Functional equivalence; modality; perspective; agency; angle; deliberation; learning; performance; application; PETTLEP; applied model of imagery use

Article.  14739 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Health Psychology ; Organizational Psychology

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